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How petrol fire wreaked havoc in Onitsha

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…. Red Cross, Obiano, Ubah, others react

By Phil Okose, Onitsha

An ill-fated 40-foot trailer, laden with fuel, had, on descending the
Onitsha/ Enugu Expressway, Onitsha, Anambra state, Wednesday, as
it was heading towards Upper Iweka axis, developed break failure and the driver lost control of the vehicle and plunged into a big drainage, where it
emptied its liquid content opposite Toronto hospital.

The liquid content (fuel) then, flew through the gutter and sets shops on fire at the motor spare parts market. As it continued flowing towards Ochanja Market area, traders along the road scampered for safety and, in the process, scores were injured.

A woman trader, who was carrying her baby, rushed out of her shop when
the fire was about to get there; but when she remembered that she left her money behind, she immediately went back to collect her N200,000. It was in the process of crossing a gutter that she fell with her child and they got roasted immediately.

Plazas and shops at the popular Ochanja Market round-about, along Zik’s Avenue, Onitsha, numbering about 20, were gutted by fire and goods worth millions of
naira got burnt to ashes.

The incident, which occurred at noon on Wednesday, continued
its destruction up to10pm the fateful day, as all efforts by traders to quench the
inferno proved abortive; as fire service officials were nowhere to be seen. The development created avenue for errant youths, who looted freely from shop to shop. Efforts by the police to stop the rampaging youths fell on deaf ears
despite endless shooting into the air to scare them.

Reacting to the development, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state prayed for the repose of the souls of the victims; with a promise to assist families of the deceased in their burial arrangements.

The governor, who spoke through the state’s commissioner for information and public enlightenment, said that the incident was a tragedy that threw the entire state into mourning.

Also reacting to the development, the state vice chairman of Nigerian Red Cross Society, Prof. Peter Emeka Catchy, described the development as unfortunate.

According to him, two deaths were recorded, a mother and her child, who lost their lives in the course of the fire; while others, sustained various degrees of injuries and were rushed to different hospitals.

In his own reaction, an elder statesman, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, who regretted that Onitsha traders lost goods worth hundreds of millions, warned
traders to stop displaying their wares on road sides. “Traders should
help themselves by knowing and doing what is right,” he said.

Also, in his reaction, the senator representing Anambra South district at the national assembly, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, assured the families of those, who lost their loved ones to the fire outbreak that circumstances that led to the tragedy shall be thoroughly addressed.

According to Ubah, who donated the sum of N2 million for the treatment of victims receiving treatment at the Toronto hospital, Onitsha, “The tragic incidence brings to cognisance the need to prioritise the implementation of effective fuel tanker explosion preventive policies and measures in Nigeria.”

Also reacting, the state chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO,
Comrade Vincent Ezekwueme, said, “The state government should set up a committee of men of impeccable integrity to probe the activities of the state fire
service over their inactions, negligence to duties and indifference in
view of the huge allocation and money spent on them,” adding that “It is very regrettable and despicable that the establishment is not living up to its statutory mandate.”


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